Glenwood whitewater park brings paddling legitimacy, tourism dollars
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado — Ever since the Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park’s opening in the spring of 2008, the park and the town have become a second home for whitewater sports enthusiasts.
The park has brought events such as the May 2009 U.S. Kayak Freestyle Team Trials and next Monday’s stand-up paddling championship. Kate Collins, former Vice President of Tourism Marketing for the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, said those events help bring tourism dollars to the city.
“It’s increased interest in a time of year when there is not a lot of tourism,” Collins said. “I understand the number of competitors [in the stand-up paddling event] is small, but people are coming even from Hawaii.”
Collins also said that since the whitewater park opened, the city has emerged as a worldwide destination for whitewater events. Stand-up paddling championship coordinator Paul Tefft agrees.
“As event coordinator, we wanted to choose a venue that is known for whitewater,” he said. “The Colorado River is great.”
One thing that sets the Glenwood venue apart, according to the website glenwoodwhitewaterevents.com, is that the water flows of the Colorado River are higher for longer than most other places in the United States. This allows events to take place in “shoulder seasons,” before or after regular whitewater seasons.
Aspen Kayak Academy owner Charlie MacArthur said that, since the whitewater park was built, things have changed.
“It’s changed dramatically,” he said. “I think it adds to the legitimacy of how amazing Glenwood and the whole valley is. The strength is that it can host so many different events, so it’s pretty cool.”
MacArthur added that the park brings people in and that helps the city and tourism.
“It helps [businesses] a lot,” MacArthur said. “They hit breweries, restaurants, and you have all the shops. They have access to all that Glenwood has to offer, and they spend.”
He said events like the stand-up paddling championship are here to stay.
“At this point, I don’t know how it would go anywhere else,” he said. “It’s in our backyard, and I don’t think anywhere else has this nice of a venue.”
This is the first competition that will benefit from the $430,000 in bank improvements recently completed at the whitewater park. Improvements include observation bleachers and decks for spectators on both the north and south riverbanks, and a specific take out for paddlers to the west of the Midland Avenue Bridge. Gould Construction completed the improvement work, while Aspen-based Dunnett Design Group designed the park.
The wave feature was designed by Jason Carey and was constructed by his company, Riverrestoration.org.